Mannford students to return to school, teachers to address wildfire tragedy

MANNFORD, Okla. - Students in Mannford head back to school this week for the first time since devastating wildfires swept across Creek County.

District officials say teachers will address the tragedy, which has impacted hundreds of residents, including students, teachers and staff members at Mannford Public Schools.

First grade teacher Kim Morris is spent her final week of summer vacation getting her classroom ready for a new group of students.

Morris isn't quite sure how many students she will have because some of them were impacted by the wildfires and may not return this school year.

The district says at least 70 students lost homes in the fires.

To get an idea of the devastation, watch aerial footage of the damage the wildfires left behind.

For the last few days, school leaders collected school supplies for students impacted by the fires.

"The outpouring of generosity has been overwhelming," said Dr. Steve Waldvogel, superintendent of Mannford Public Schools.

Waldvogel said he met with some of the students who lost homes.

"Amazingly, they're positive and upbeat about coming back to school," he said.

Of course, gathering school supplies is one thing. Dealing with emotions of students whose entire home lives were changed is another matter.

Morris plans to share with her students how the fires have affected her family. Morris said her younger sister lost a home.

"And I'll let the kids contribute their stories and how it's affected them because it's important for them to be able to tell their story as part of the healing process," said Morris.

As for the exact words she'll use, Morris plans to rely on her faith in God.

"I pray to him and ask him to give me the right words to say to those students to help them heal," she said.

Morris believes just the act of returning to school may be a way for students to heal.

"Coming to school will give them a schedule, give them something to focus on, rather than focusing on the fact that they've lost their homes," said Morris.

Five staff members also lost homes in the wildfires.

The district will show its support for these staff members during a teacher celebration rally Monday, which began at 8:30 a.m. at the multi-purpose facility located at the high school complex.

Waldvogel said the district will share any extra schools supplies with Olive and Drumright school districts, which were also hit hard by the wildfires.

Classes in Mannford will resume Thursday.

See viewer-submitted images of the damage caused by wildfires: http://bit.ly/WildfireDamage .

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